So, I finally had one of those moments of clarity that Jules Winnfield talked about in Pulp Fiction and have decided, you know, that there may be something to web video conferencing after all. I think it all occurred last Friday as I left the house at 6:30 in the morning to drive the three hours out to Abilene, be in meetings until about 2:30 and then head back to Waco. Or maybe it was on Saturday as I was making a YouTube video out of Flip camera footage I shot during the drive.
It also used to be more interesting to drive places when I hadn’t followed the route quite so many times. (Two of the TSTC colleges are over three hours from Waco and the third is about seven hours away.) This sort of parallels the way I’ve gotten to feel about staying in hotels/motels. Way back when it always seemed cool and decadent to stay in a hotel . . . kind of like you’re in The Who on tour. But the older I get the more I feel like Howard Hughes and every motel room is just a bigger and bigger Petri dish with some out of control bacterial culture growing in it. I used to drive a lot more often—up to 600 miles a week—when I was adjunct instructor and for a while I made my peace with it by thinking, gosh, I’m seeing the highways and byways of America like a Led Zeppelin roady on a tour bus. But then one day you realize you’re actually driving on autopilot—cruising down farm-to-market roads faster and faster as you’ve been on them a million times before—and all you really wind up doing is kind of waking up at your destination all dazed with an aching back.
Then again, I always told my comp students that no matter how bored they initially felt about an assignment, the key thing was to make it interesting to themselves . . . and if they could get over that hurdle that things would probably go much more smoothly. So, since I’ve made the drive out to Abilene a ton of times—up Highway 6 to I-20—I thought I’d shoot some video on Friday’s trip. . . especially because the school truck I was in only had a cassette player and there’s a vast dead zone radio-wise for much of the trip. After all, I knew where the giant spur was in Hico, the dilapidated buildings in Clairette, the peanut warehouses in Gorman, Sharon’s Barbeque in Abilene, and so on.
Saturday, as I said, I spent most of the afternoon editing my footage and putting together the initial cut of 20 minutes that I showed to my wife that night. (This just goes to show your spouse does love you . . . she’s the only one who would sit all the way through something like this.) Then I decided to upload it to YouTube only to discover there was a time limit of 10 minutes. All of a sudden I felt like Francis Ford Coppola dealing with the studio about Apocalypse Now: you cannot make me butcher my masterpiece! But, it made me cut out the fat—such as it was—as I pieced together my Dogme 95 homage.
This is not to say that I got my wife to sit through this shorter version. As she said, very nicely, to me, “Hon, you know nobody is actually going watch this whole thing. It is . . . so . . . borrriiinnnggg.” Yes, I said, yes! That’s how it was! That’s verisimilitude! “Truth alone,” she replied sadly, “does not make art.”
But, anyway, getting with people face to face is the best way to do business. There’s a certain amorphous nature to emails—easy not to respond to, even easier just to ignore entirely—that makes them not particularly useful when things actually need to get done. (Plus, there’s always an electronic trail and the reality that you just never know who a message might get forwarded to.) And phone calls . . . ugh. I hate talking on the phone. Usually I find myself spending most of my time looking up at the ceiling and/or gesticulating wildly based on what I’m hearing. You just can’t beat looking at people when they’re talking to you. For me, probably has something to do with that old saying about how it’s better to be the kind of guy who will stand on the ground and tell the truth instead of climbing up in a tree to tell a lie.
So, today at work I downloaded Skype, borrowed a webcam from another department, and next week we’re going to start figuring out web video conferencing . . . especially to try to reduce the need for quite so many day trips in particular. Until then I’ll be the guy standing in the corner at the party, wearing the beret, and talking to anyone who has the misfortune to wander within earshot about the Dostoyevskian nature of West Texas geography.